Rich "Goose" Gossage, the fireballing right-hander who helped pioneer the role of closer in the late 1970s, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday as the lone player in the Class of 2008.
Gossage, buoyed by the induction of reliever Bruce Sutter in 2006, received 85.8 percent of the vote from the 543 members of Baseball Writers Association of America who submitted ballots.
"If I do get elected," Gossage said earlier this week, "it really does make my career."
Former Boston Red Sox slugger Jim Rice fell short for the 14th time, garnering 72.2 percent, 16 votes short of the 75 percent threshold. Next season is Rice's final one on the writers' ballot, and if history is any indication, he will likely be elected.
In his second year of eligibility, Mark McGwire was chosen by only 23.6 percent, slightly more than the 23.5 percent last year. The returns from his first two years show that McGwire could be the first casualty of steroid speculation, an issue sure to dog Hall of Fame voters in coming years when Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens appear on the ballot.
Finishing behind Rice were outfielder Andre Dawson with 65.9 percent, and three pitchers: Bert Blyleven with 61.9 percent, Lee Smith with 43.3 percent and Jack Morris with 42.9 percent.
Outfielder Tim Raines, in his first year on the ballot, did not come close to election at 24.3 percent.
Gossage started at 33.3 percent in 2000 and slowly maneuvered his way toward the top. The evolving attitude toward relief pitchers belonging in the Hall helped his cause, as did the incredible numbers he put up over his 22-year career.
Gossage finished with 310 saves, a 3.01 earned-run average and nine All-Star appearances. He joins Sutter, Rollie Fingers and Hoyt Wilhelm in the Hall as pitchers who spent most of their career full-time relievers, jumping from 71.2 percent of votes last season.
At the July 27, 2008, induction in Cooperstown, N.Y., Gossage will go in alongside former owners Walter O'Malley and Barney Dreyfuss, former commissioner Bowie Kuhn and former managers Billy Southworth and Dick Williams, all chosen by the Veteran's Committee.